As a part of the Mighty Renovation Project of our 1925 bungalow, we finished off a rather large basement to accommodate our son’s need for a working music rehearsal and recording space. Space was ample here, and as I looked around at the unfinished square footage, I felt an impulse to do as little as possible, retaining an feel of openness, while improving the acoustics of the room. We were also able to do some fun things like reuse original doors from the home, which gave the new room a bit of class.
Why a Music/Recording Studio?
A working music studio is essential to our family. Ian rehearses and records in it, Eva is working towards producing her own audio books, and husband-Jamie just completed a recording of a his original creepy short story called “Grand Prix,” that will air on the Louisville Public Radio’s Unbound program. And if the kitchen feeds the belly, then the music studio feeds the family soul. We see this new space as a community center, bringing people of all ages to share music and fun together. It has already proven its worth.
The basement can’t be all fun, of course. We did need a laundry room in the house, some additional storage, and a second bathroom. But we made these spaces as small as we could, tucking them in out of the way places, and making the laundry area as attractive as possible, since it remained open. My only allowances for walls were for the bathroom, the furnace area, and the crawl space storage room. For the remaining areas, I designed only half-walls, giving the sense of separate space while retaining open eye-lines.
Making the Space Work
The central placement of the furnace, water heater, and staircase dictate the shape of the room, splitting it neatly in half. We devoted one side to the music area and “hang out” space, and the other to the laundry, bath, and ping-pong table, which we picked up at a local thrift store. Though I would have liked to make the rehearsal space even larger, the area that was available will suit well enough; if we eventually outgrow it, we can always take over the ping-pong quadrant.
Because recording equipment is so tiny these days – simple mics, a small interface, and a laptop – we didn’t need to make much allowance for it. A small table is all we have, and Ian has already spent many hours there, carefully working through the tutorial for the Cubase recording software he uses. He has big plans over the summer, and hopes to record at least one or two of his original pieces.
To improve the basement’s acoustics, we had sound channels installed in the ceilings, which buffers the noise between the basement and the main floor; we also chose thick wall-to-wall carpeting. It is in no way sound-proof, but this wasn’t a priority for us; we like hearing the music when it’s being played! We have discussed using curtains for further muffling when recording, and we may perhaps still install these. However, for now, if we are quiet upstairs, it doesn’t seem to be a problem. We also have boxes of foam baffles that we can always pull out if we need them. We’ll see.
Building these spaces that nurture creativity has huge, self-evident rewards. When a room is inviting, well-lit, and puts helpful tools at your fingertips, you can’t help but want to be in it and make stuff. As I’m writing this, Ian is downstairs with one of his high school buddies, Hank. They are rehearsing for an upcoming gig that will feature Ian’s original tunes. Ian’s on drums/vocals, Hank’s on bass (and did I hear a mandolin?), and husband-Jamie will sit in on guitar. There is so much to love!
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